JOHNSTOWN - Advances in science have brought maple syrup production a long way from the days when people had to collect the sap in buckets and boil it down.
The process is time-consuming with 40 gallons of sap needed to produce one gallon of syrup.
Of course, the traditional method can still be practiced, but at large-scale sugar houses technological advances have given them the ability to produce more in less time.
Steve Savage of Peaceful Valley Maple Farms in Johnstown feeds wood into the evaporator on Saturday during the open house events for Maple Weekend.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
Most of the sap collected from trees consists of water. With technology like reverse-osmosis machines that can separate a sugar molecule from a water molecule, 180 gallons of syrup can be produced in 6 1/2 hours.
That's compared to the 16 hours it used to take the Savage family from Peaceful Valley Maple Farms in Johnstown to produce 30 gallons of syrup, said Kathy Savage who was giving a tour of the maple syrup production area Saturday.
This weekend marks the close of the 16th annual Maple Weekend events, which started last weekend. Today is the last day of the open house events at 18 sugarhouses sponsored by the Upper Hudson Maple Producers Association.
Steve Savage, who owns the farm with his wife Kathy, said the farm has about 8,500 taps from nine different woods with both vacuum and gravity lines that are fed down into the reverse osmosis machines and a giant evaporator.
"If you see a bucket on this land, chances are it's just for show," Kathy told a crowd taking a tour of the facilities.
But even with new technology, the process remains laborious with lines that have to be repaired because of deer or squirrel damage, or in this year's case snowstorms, Kathy said.
Ed and Barbara James of Edinburg visit different maple farms every year for the Maple Weekend festivities.
This year they decided to visit Peaceful Valley and were struck by the amount of time saved by the reverse osmosis machines.
"We just like to see the different machines, and we like maple syrup, not the store-bought kind," Barbara said.
Every weekend until Mother's Day, May 8, Peaceful Valley hosts a pancake breakfast on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Each weekend the kitchen, run by Steve's mother Barbara, starts out with 500 eggs, 16 pounds of sausage, 30 pounds of ham, 60 to 70 pounds of potatoes, 15 to 20 loaves of bread, and 12 to 15 gallons of juice, not to mention an estimated 200 cups of coffee,
"There's nothing like a good, hearty breakfast to warm your belly," Kathy said.
The farm also has a gift shop, open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and cowboys and cowgirls from Westwind Farm will be on hand to give free horse rides and roping lessons.
Goober, the Brahma bull, is also visiting for Maple Weekend. Weather permitting, horse drawn wagon rides also are available for $1.
Frasiers Sugar Shack, located at 144 Church St., in Ephratah, will offer a tree tapping demonstration and have maple syrup and confections for sale. Mud Road Sugar House, located at 261 Mud Road, also is open today and serving complimentary corn fritters, offering demonstrations and making maple cotton candy.
For a complete list of sugarhouses and activities, visit www.mapleweekend.com
Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org